That the king of Moab would come to rule over Israel was, in retrospect, as foregone a conclusion as if it had been ordained by God. The ruling factions of the land had fostered a sense of disillusionment in Israel’s lower class to further their own ends, and this latent tribalism soon gave way to open animosity. The Israelites saw themselves as a people divided and under siege from within, every family and neighborhood and village believing itself to be the “real” Israel.
Into this maelstrom stepped Eglon, a strongman who even though he was an outsider promised to return Israel to an earlier, better era. His propaganda arrived ahead of his armies, and under his direction, the combined forces of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites seized the city of Jericho. Roughly a fifth of the Israelites were only too happy to deliver their nation into the hands of these conquerers.
Eglon’s reign lasted for eighteen years before he was killed by an assassin and the Moabite army driven back across the River Jordan. The Israelites were able to keep their disparate factions together for eighty years before things once more degenerated to the point where another despot was able to seize power.